Thursday, April 24, 2008

David Ford - Go to Hell

I was thinking it was high time I put something on my blog so I was struggling for an idea. I have listened to a lot of good music lately, but this little video on the featured area in YouTube caught my eye. It is David Ford, who is a new guy on the scene and he makes his music entirely by live looping samples. I am a huge fan of live loops and he really makes it work.

And an old time favorite of mine by Dosh!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Namie Amuro - Please Smile Again / Come

I'm a smoker and I'm trying to quit. I have been cutting back a fair bit over the last few months due to an increasingly bad sore throat situation. Now I have taken that final plunge and am hoping it will stick. I quit smoking once before for about six months. I think if I am to avoid smoking altogether, I will also have to stay away from alcohol. Both times I started smoking were due to the drink and to pretty girls. Good reasons to smoke I'll admit. When I was first in Japan, my initial encounter with foreigners (later to become my family away from home) was at an Okonomiyaki restaurant. One of the girls asked me if I smoked and I truthfully answered, a little bit. That little bit would grow to become a pretty regular habit for the next seven plus years. Today's post is about my days as a smoker sitting at that Okonomiyaki place enjoying convesation with my new sexy friends and listening to my first dose of that infection that is J-pop.

It was a late Japanese autumn in 1999, I would consider the last days of true J-pop. It was a time when Japanese popular music wasn't merely a reflection of the West's music scene. Popular Japanese music was just a little stranger to the ears back in that day - more alien. In that drunken smokey haze of mine I noticed how Japanese pop songs that sounded more like commercial jingles than songs as I knew them. Almost as if the songs were designed by some ad agency to be absorbed by the masses with their insipid yet totally memorable little hooks and choruses. They were pretty awful, and yet I couldn't get them out of my head. Some people get piercings and tattoos and consider it a good pain. Others go to the gym or run a marathon and call that a good pain. And when I first heard Namie Amuro's "Please Smile Again" at that restaurant with my new friends, I realized that Japan is also riddled with all kinds of good pain too. I still remember thinking, "what the fuck is this shit!?" when I first heard this song playing of the radio. The chorus is full of blissfully broken English, "Please smile again! Oh, no no no! Please close to me!". It makes me chuckle every time I hear it and I can't but turn a little red and sing along.

While I didn't know that name of that pop song at the time but I knew if I went to our local video/CD rental place I would be able to track it down. It was a popular single and it was only a matter of time until I found it at one of their listening stations. And so began my quest to find the GOOD Japanese music. It would lead me to find much better stock like UA, Chara and the Fishmans and it still leads me to this day. It's a little embarrassing to admit but my current obsession with music and this blog can be traced directly to that awful little song. I hate it, and I love it. I share it with you and extend my condolences. Cigarettes, beer and Namie Amuro define my first good memories of Japan.

As a bonus let's fast forward six years to Amuro's song, "Come", which despite her latter efforts to become a Missy Elliott, manages to retain the unique innocence of 90's J-Pop.

Monday, March 03, 2008

King Khan & His Shrines - Animal Troupe (?)

Do you know how much it would take to fill my iPod legitimately? I've seen estimates and they all hover around the $40,000 mark. Forty fucking thousand down-payment on a mansion dollars... you know what I'm not going to do - fill my iPod legitimately. Back in the day when CDs were king, I showed my music collection to my uncle. He asked me (justifiably in retrospect) how much I had spent in music. I thought about it a bit and answered, "$10,000". He looked at me with a hint of disbelief in his eyes and said, "Man, you could of bought a car". He's right. As a guy who owns a $30 Ford Escort, I have put a significant amount of cash into the record industry. What's worse, I don't even listen to any of my $10,000 investment anymore. I've moved on, my tastes have changed, but this baby always needs a new pair of ('83 Nike Air Force 1) shoes.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I received a cease and desist letter from my internet provider telling me to stop downloading "illegal" torrents. Seeing as I share my internet connection with the rest of the household, I couldn't possibly put our connection in jeopardy over my music addiction, so I switched to iTunes. I have since bought around $250 worth of music in the past few months through this service. I have some complaints with iTunes, such as their very incomplete collections and constant pimping of Canadian content (thanks, CRTC). But the real problem for me is still the expectation that I PAY for the music I consume. That may sound petty, but allow me to explain why this is my chief complaint. iTunes "generously" provides you with 30 second samples of the artists' music and while it's alright to get a general idea of an album, it doesn't eliminate the risk of purchasing an album. When, I used to go to a listening station (Tower/Into the Music) I was allowed to sample each song as in depth as I wanted to. The sample was as big as I chose, because songs don't necessarily shine in the 30 second sound bite formula. Intros, outros, songs that span ten minutes are all lost in the 30 second sample. Purchasing content without proper context is a risky proposition indeed. Even if I think I am happy with the iTunes endorsed portion of the tracks I hear, the songs may lose their shine after one or two plays. These risks make me a very cautious customer. In fact, these risks have made me a non-customer. The cost of making me pay for music is ultimately that I don't pay for music. I will go without rather than to have regrets. A gambling man, I am not.

So I begin my journey to find liberated music that doesn't explicitly violate any current laws and blessed be, the marketplace provides. I was recently turned on to music blogs, much like my own but with links to albums on file storage sites like MediaFire, MegaUpload and zSHARE. It's not perfect, many of the sites have hourly d/l limits (Not MediaFire, it rocks!) but with some patience and the right blogs to search from music will be yours once again. My music downloading has hit new highs, as I downloaded no fewer than 12 albums last night from artists I never heard of before. If I find I don't like something, it's no skin off my back, it was free! As a result I have made more great discoveries in one day than I had in my three months with iTunes. No bureaucracy, just music for the masses.

Here's a clip from, King Khan & His Shrines which has been on heavy iPod rotation all weekend. The song is called, Animal Troupe or maybe Had it with you... I honestly don't know what he says when he intros the song, but let it be known whatever it is called, it kicks ass. I didn't even know these guys existed before I visited OngakuBaka, a site dedicated to the most avant music you've never heard but must certainly should. I genuinely want to pay to see King Khan live and I'll pressure all my friends to do the same. Check this video out, the guy is one half garage band legend, one half James Brown. Honestly, I'm a sucker for any band that has a live brass section. King Khan & His Shrines is the reason why it is sometimes more important for music to be heard even if not always bought. And honestly, at $40,000, how could I possibly pay?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Determinations & Prince Buster - Al Capone / Determinations & Ego Wrappin' - A Love Song

Osaka, Japan is the world's capital of Ska music. I'm sure Jamaica has quite the scene, especially in the 60's and 70's. Punk Ska has come and gone and come back, but for the most part I've never really felt it. Ska should sound like +40 degrees bathed in sunlight and it still does, in Japan. Determinations is a great example of Osaka's massive Ska scene. I am glad to say I've seen the Determinations and the dub-trip-hop inspired side-project Little Yossy Noise Weaver. I wanted to go to a ska show, but none of my friends were hip enough to go with me. I have never really gone out to a club on my own but finally figured I had a choice to make - either see what this Ska business is or go to some lame gaijin dive hating myself. Lucky for me I chose the former.

Ska nights in Osaka are an amazing experience. The crowds are absolutely crazy - and much younger than I had expected. Ska music seems to be particularly big with the college kids and that was exciting for me to see since the music itself would well predate the music my mother was listening to when she was their age. (Brass bands are really huge in Japanese high schools and even though most of those kids don't yet realize it, many are likely to hone their talents in ska bands.) So I get to my first concert and notice everyone is dressed like rude boys and rude girls, clothing that hearkens back to the 50s and I look to the stage and there's like a 12 piece band on a tiny stage. When they started playing I got to experience skanking first hand and I've never looked back. I hope there is a similar Ska scene secretly hidden in wait for me somewhere in Winnipeg but I don't hold out much hope.

Here are two Determinations videos that give you a look at Osaka's ska scene first hand. One with ska legend, Prince Buster and another with Osaka's jazz darling, Yoshie Nakano of Ego Wrappin'.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pato Fu - 30.000 Pés / UA - Love Scene

No!!! This blog is not dead! I swear. I have been busy with preparing a new portfolio. It seems that every six months or so I make a new portfolio for some fancy art school and it kills my blogging for the duration. But many of you people have been suggesting awesome music for me to check out and I have to say you are all on point. Most of the music I have on my iPod is a direct result of reader feedback. I love you guys, you have made my days at work so much richer (I can iPod it all day long at work if I waan). I would like to dedicate this post to Nyuudo. He has some great taste in music and has introduced me to all kinds of music from Chile, Brazil, Spain and France.

Pato Fu is from Brazil and is so good it makes me want to learn Portuguese. It's hip and soulful, fresh and diverse. I just purchased "Daqui Pro Futuro" which was released in fall last year and I find myself listening to it almost every day. I dare say it might be the overall best album I have heard in 2007, likely tied with UA's comeback album Golden Green. I wouldn't likely even have known the name Pata Fu if it wasn't for Nyuudo. Pata Fu is Brazilian for "Duck Fu" which seems to further solidify evidence of my love for any music involving ducks. There is of course a Japanese connection to all this. The lead singer is Fernanda Takai, who happens to be half-Japanese. While living in Japan I learned there is a strong Brazilian community in Japan. Japan and Brazil go way back in terms of trade and over the years both countries have been quite friendly with each other. I wont lie, I always thought the Brazilians in Japan were a little scary but after hearing all the cool music they come out with I think I had them pegged wrong. I regret not making a Brazilian friend or two when I had the chance.

UA's Golden Green is another album I can't seem to put down. UA is one of the first Japanese artists I can say I really got into. One of my goals in life was to see her in concert and I did. Another one of my goals was to collect her entire collection of old 8cm mini-CDs and I got pretty close. UA was on fire for quite a few years but like any self-respecting artist, began to experiment with her sound and released around three albums that were less pop and more like improv Jazz experimentations. I have them but they just don't resonate with me the way her earlier albums did. Then out comes Golden Green and I couldn't expect very much. I even thought twice about even bothering with this new disc, but I am sure glad I did. Golden Green could not exist today if UA hadn't taken some time off of her pop shtick and played around. Golden Green in many respects it the culmination of all that is UA. Out of the 12 or so songs I'd say half of them are perfect. Perfect music. Not a moment, ne'er a split atomic second is wrong. This shit's so smooth, it makes Barry White sound like a jack hammer. I want to call it pop... or jazz, but it's both and it's neither. This album should be in stores in Canada. It needs to be heard. Golden Green isn't as consistent as Daqui Pro Futuro but when it's on, it's like nothing you've ever heard. Honestly, I would have made the entire album 6 tracks and created the perfect extended EP. I love UA, and this album makes it clear why I do.

I hope I get more articles posted in a short time, I have so much to share. But I also have this nagging portfolio to finish. I will try to make time for both.

And for porno.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Jesse Dangerously - Righteous Bad Ass

I finally managed to back up my old iPod so I felt safe to reinstall iTunes on my computer. A couple of years back one of my friends bought an iPod Mini (remember those?) and didn't know to turn the syncing "feature" off. When she deleted mp3 files from her hard drive to conserve space on her antiquated computer iTunes quickly decided she didn't need those songs on her iPod anymore either. I told my teary-eyed friend (she was teary-eyed quite often) that she would need to turn syncing off to avoid this from happening in the future. Ever since that event I have a very limited trust in Apple's software. While it was a good time to back up the my old 3rd generation iPod, it was basically full and I went to our local Apple retailer to look at the latest and greatest. I came home with a shitty haircut (not from the Apple shop) and an awesome 160 GB iPod Classic. It is not without it's shortcomings, it's a bit slower and has slightly choppy video occasionally but the additional capacity more than makes up for it.

It was also time to use my first iTunes card and see what was available in the store. I was very disappointed with their selection of foreign music while not completely absent it is safe to say it would not pass "The GOOD Music" test. The Canadian version of the iTunes store is so saturated with Canadian content that I gotta assume the CRTC (Canada's FCC) has something to do with it. Canada has some of the most draconian legislation when it comes to minimum Canadian content. In fact, you may not know that Bob and Doug Mackenzie were a sarcastic jab at the CRTC's content rules. It's much easier to complain about these rules when it means you must choose between Nickelback, The Hip and Rush but at least the iTunes store has a very very thorough selection to choose from. While on the iTunes site I picked up a Hifana single, a Four Tet EP and a new album by Halifax-born, Alberta resident, Jesse Dangerously.

I first came across Dangerously while reading an article from an excellent site called Hipster, Please! The article did little more than mention him alongside a number of other Nerdcore rappers but it did say he was from Canada and so I figured I would give him a try. It's too smooth to be Nerdcore and too nerdy to be mainstream. Indie hip hop at its finest with a strong nineties influence. Undeniably Canadian in prose, Dangerously is really darn tight with good production and high replay value. So much so, that I decided to make him the first artist I have ever paid for a bunch of ones and zeros coming through my tubes.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Ten Places for the GOOD Music

“Closed from today.” That’s what the sign said at the music store in our mall. I never bought anything there so I guess I’m part of the problem but it’s still sad to see our little shitty music store go. I even recently thought about how I had been picking up the latest issues of Exclaim! Magazine for free and reading them in our local library, a nice escape that made our little town feel more like a big city. The year end seems a fitting time to write a top ten list unless your cracked in which case it’s always time to write top ten lists. Here are my top ten sources for new music. They are written in a rough chronology from oldest to newest. While keeping in mind that older sources are not always given up for the new, I can’t help noticing how the sources become digital over time. My initial sources depend on close relationships while the later rely on the faceless collective, I suppose resistance was futile.

1. Friends – High school friends did a lot to turn me on to different kinds of music. Grasshopper, the early Chris Sheppard mixes, Skinny Puppy, and the Digital Underground were always personal faves.

Chimo Bayo

2. Used Music Stores, Pawn Shops, and one Yakuza-Run Adult Movie Store – Into the Music was my personal Mecca for new music. A time just before file sharing became the norm I remember sitting along side punks and hippies at the listening stations. Every disc in the store could be listened to for as long as you wanted. People always respected the line ups and would usually make sure everyone had a decent chance to have some time with their music. I learned all about break beats at that place.

Fast forward several years to beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon in Japan. I was going for a walk in an unexplored part of my neighborhood. My favorite thing about living in Japan is that you can explore an area for months even years and think you have seen it all only to find a road you’ve never traversed and make the discovery of a lifetime. That Sunday was one of those times. I stumbled upon a small video store (which I later found out was run by Yakuza) and went in. There was a small front area which rented the standard blockbuster movies and a massive back area that rented out porno. They also sold used music CDs. Thing is they were tired of selling CDs in the store and decided to clear out their inventory as quickly as possible by slashing their prices to virtually free. This is the sort of stuff I dream about (literally). I walked out with armloads of discs, about fifty. And I didn’t spent more than a dollar a piece.

3. Radio – I’ve talked about my favorite radio stations before so I won’t go into too much detail but sufficed to say I wouldn’t know about Aiden Baker, The Books or Broken Teeth without them.

Broken Teeth

4. Trading Tapes Online – It was the dawn of the World Wide Web and I was a big fan of Skinny Puppy thanks to some high school friends. I craved all things industrial at the time and joined the “Smothered Hope” Skinny Puppy newsgroup. I asked some people on the news group if they would be willing to send me some mix tapes of their favorite music and to my surprise I got no fewer than ten tapes in the mail. Thanks to these mix tapes I learned about John Oswald and Negativland.

John Oswald

5. Art school – In art school I met a number of like-minded individuals who craved music above all else. None of us were exactly sure what it was that we wanted to hear so we all did a lot of personal research and shared out findings amongst ourselves. University taught me the fine art of Pan Sonic, Tom Waits, Tortoise and Godspeed, You Brave Emperor, saying nothing of the countless local bands that I love to this day.

Pan Sonic

6. Music Magazines – Uptown, Exclaim! and the Manitoban were a few of the free rags I could pick up at school or downtown. Between the three publications I had about all the music news I could digest between classes. While well known to me at the time I still clearly remember Kevin Matthews defending Beck’s fine Mutations album.

7. Peer to Peer – Napster got me interested, Audiogalaxy had me hooked. In my opinion Audiogalaxy had the best single song downloading system ever created. Look for a song, almost ANY song not matter how obscure and just download it. It worked flawlessly 99.99% of the time. Audiogalaxy’s song recommendation system is still the best I’ve ever seen. It introduced me to loads of cool music like BT, Röyksopp and Japan’s Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. After much legal pressure Soulseek was forced to go legit and is now known as the all but forgotten Rhapsody. A few months later, enter SoulSeek currently the best option for finding new music especially if you have a few friends on the network. And of course we cannot forget about the all mighty torrents.

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant

8. Night Clubs – I did a LOT of clubbing during my first stint in Japan and found out a lot about cool local DJs. I went with a crew of two other people and no doubt we were known for a long time as those three mushroom weirdos that never talked to anyone. People’s curiosity was piqued and after about a year became quite famous with the expat regulars. Thanks to my time a club regular I was introduced to the likes of DJ Shinkawa, Energy Dai, and Yoji Biomehanika. My second go at Japan was much more subdued due to my age and new found fear of mushrooms and a general disinterest in hard house. I spent a lot of time at more chilled out affairs like Ska clubs and turntablist events.

DJ Kentaro

8. You Tube & MySpace – You Tube is the reason this site exists. It’s no fun to write about a band without giving you a sample of how they sound. One day, I thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of all the cool Japanese bands on my iPod and send it to all my friends complete with a list of links to videos found on You Tube. Problem was that the list became so huge that I knew there was no way anyone was going to go through all of it. The solution became The GOOD Music.

Lately, I have been looking at MySpace as a source of finding new bands. Simply pick a band you like, find them on MySpace and look at their friends list. Many of the people on the list will likely be other bands that have similar styles. How else would I know about Water Water Camel, Lullatone and the Cuntfaces?


9. Podcasts – When I am really hard up for new stuff I can always count on music podcasts for inspiration. I really enjoy Live365, imagine radio for ever possible niche you can imagine. It’s helped me connect with lots of unknown indie bands from all over the world. Podcast are to blame many of my recent favorites like Tomato Star, My Little Airport, and my recent love affair with Nerdcore hip hop.

MC Frontalot

10. All other websites – Like a brave explorer, I am never scared to dig through the dark recesses of the web to come up with bold new content. Some of it is obvious like this great new juke box site called Songza. It has an easy to use interface that scours the web for any manner of streaming audio and plays it like magic. Certainly, the weirdest place I’ve gone for music recently is the adult web cam site, Live Jasmine. Bear with me for a moment and I’ll explain myself. Live Jasmine is a site that streams live video of half naked chicks from all over the world to you computer in hopes that someone will pay to see one of the chicks stick things in their butts and things of that nature. A typical web cam will have some poor Filipina lying on a bed listening to music while trying to lure some lonely, rich American into paying for a private “chat”. I would go into these rooms and if I heard a song that I was interested in I would simply ask the girl what the name of the band was. Every now and then someone would bite and I would have a gem like “Ordertaker” by Parokya Ni Edgar to share with you all. System, anyone?

Parokya Ni Edgar